When we think of wounds, we often envision physical injuries—especially when it involves veterans.
But there is an invisible wound that affects millions of people worldwide: post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD is a complex, debilitating mental health condition that develops after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event.
PTSD can look different in everyone. For Warriors Quinton, Joe, and Ashley, this rings true.
Isolation and avoidance became the new normal upon returning home from deployment for U.S. Marine Veteran Quinton. He’d feel unsafe when doing everyday activities, like going to the grocery store or mall.
Joe, a U.S. Navy Veteran, similarly struggled to assimilate to his old routine, debilitated by crippling anxiety on his commute to his office job. He’d face anxiety attacks: “It felt like someone was standing on my chest,” he recalls.
He was prescribed countless pills to combat his symptoms, but nothing did the trick.
For Air Force Veteran Ashley, sleep was a thing of the past. Nightmares haunted her, reminding her of past trauma. She struggled to get a grip on her emotions, never truly feeling at ease. Someone would touch her, and she’d have an unexpected breakdown, thrown back to dark memories.
But on the outside, all of these Warriors could pass as "normal" to someone who wasn’t looking too closely.
PTSD kept them trapped within their own minds.
Intrusive thoughts, distressing dreams, flashbacks. Avoidance of people, places, and events. Irritability and anger. Self-blame and detachment. Hypervigilance — always on guard.
When someone goes through a traumatizing event, like military combat or military sexual trauma, their brain and body responds with heightened fear and stress as part of the body’s survival mechanism. But in the case of PTSD, these responses last long after the traumatic event has ended.
A Service Dog changed that for these Warriors.
The impact of PTSD on veterans is significant. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, seven out of every 100 veterans will suffer from PTSD in their lifetime. Those numbers are higher for veterans that served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Approximately 11-20% of those vets experienced PTSD and the numbers are even higher for Gulf War veterans (12%), and Vietnam War veterans (30%).
Those struggling to live with PTSD are at greater risk of taking their own lives. Roughly 20 veterans die by suicide each day. That’s nearly one veteran every hour.
While bravely serving and fighting for our freedoms, many veterans are taught to “soldier on,” fighting through pain and suffering. This mentality leads many veterans to suffer in silence alone.
Warriors like Quinton, Joe, and Ashley struggled with employment stability, maintaining relationships, and isolation before seeking help. And they’re not alone. But the Service Dogs K9s For Warriors provided them changed everything.
A doe-eyed rescue named Moly who was saved from an animal cruelty case; Eagle, who is always up for an adventure with his new Battle Buddy; and Hope — a loveable Labrador who has truly lived up to her name.
These dogs save lives. And their work doesn’t stop. Each and every morning they wake up with a wag of the tail and a wet kiss to the face of their Warrior.
Everyday is a lifesaving mission.
Research has shown that Service Dogs can reduce symptoms of PTSD, decrease anxiety levels, and improve overall psychological well-being. Service Dogs like Moly, Eagle, and Hope offer unconditional love, companionship, and a sense of purpose. Their constant presence and support help their Warriors feel safe and secure, allowing them to regain their dignity and independence.
At K9s For Warriors, we know firsthand the true healing power of Service Dogs. Our dogs have been by their Warriors’ sides through it all. Family vacations to Disney World, the births of their children, and regular trips to the grocery store — all things they never imagined they’d be able to do again.